Sunday, October 17, 2010

Wednesday Night Music Club

We all have those artists and bands we’ve longed to see live. This year I get to see two of them. Yay me! Turns out in order to make some dreams come true, you don’t need a genie, you don’t need a Fairy Godmother, all you need is cash or credit. But who cares when it’s worth every penny.

Fair warning now: I’m a fan of Sheryl Crow and I arrived at the concert on a high anyway, (met up in the afternoon with a very dear friend I don’t get to see nearly often enough), so the chances of any objectivity here are slim.

Let me just begin then by saying exactly what you’d expect me to say at this point.

Sheryl rocks.

The Hammersmith Apollo was a new experience for me and it’s a great venue with all the character of a lovely old theatre, which makes for a more intimate setting than the huge arenas you’d expect to see stars of Sheryl’s magnitude playing. Magnitude, by the way, not being any reference to size: she looks great and she has no qualms about telling the audience she’s 48. And if I look that good in five years’ time, you can bet I’ll be doing international music tours and shaking my stuff on stage with just as much vibrant energy. Scary thought, I know, but don’t worry, it’s just my way of saying it’s never going to happen.

But it’s not about the looks, it’s very much about the music with her. She’s one of the artists I welcome (most) covers from, because there’s more of a sense she’s doing it not to sell more records but because she loves the song. And she’s managed to evolve her sound and explore fresh avenues with each album, without uprooting and moving on altogether. True, a lot of it comes down to voice – you ought to know those textured velvety tones anywhere – but she does put a certain instrumental stamp on whatever she does. And I love a talented artist who, when hearing a new record of theirs for the first time, no announcements or even halfway through, I know right away it’s them.

What she gave us live was an electric (not eclectic) mix of old, new, borrowed, blues – which is what you want from a Sheryl Crow concert – with never more than two newbies or classics in a row, so there’s no sense of this is the new section and now for some old favourites. Which worked really well. It’s all one body of work, it’s all Sheryl and it all fits comfortably together.

Regrets? I’ve had a few, but then again too few to mention. But what the heck, in the interests of balance, I’ll go ahead and say that there were – inevitably – some songs I’d been hoping to hear but didn’t. (Good Is Good and Diamond Road, for instance.) At the Peter Gabriel gig I attended, in a momentary quiet spell you could hear my solitary voice in the crowd shouting a request for Solsbury Hill – and lo! the nice man obliges. But alas, Sheryl wasn’t listening to me. In fairness to her, it was a loud crowd and there were a couple of tracks where the sound mixers even managed to drown her out – most notably in the middle of the Terrence Trent D'Arby cover, Sign Your Name. Which is a song I’ve never especially liked, I don’t know why, but even with that I like Sheryl’s version more.

All I Wanna Do was a predictable choice for an encore number, but hey, it’s not like she could have gotten away with not playing it and I’m happy to say, as familiar as I am with that number, it – if you’ll forgive the cliché - rocked the house. And in that vein, the rest is just awesome, I’m afraid, but I’ll spare readers a long list of glowing reports and just recall a few select highlights.

Which would have to include the sublime I Shall Believe (grand piano wheeled out especially) and (Are You) Strong Enough (To Be My Man?) – the latter of which she entertainingly turns into a sort of personal ad in the middle, reminding us she has two little uns now and therefore might be a lot to take on. Most of the males in the audience were undeterred and were keen to take her up on the offer. Although not me, of course, I’m married and my wife reads this blog. Although having said that, at one point she leans down to take the hand of a guy in the front row and sings directly to him. And it wasn’t me, damnit. Sigh.

Most of the oldies hailed from Tuesday Night Music Club and her second album, Sheryl Crow, with the belting If It Makes You Happy (it did), the uplifting Every Day Is A Winding Road (helped me forget I nearly got run over on one of London’s not-so-winding roads) and the gorgeous Redemption Day (I have no glib comment to make). But she found room for My Favourite Mistake, which is one of my favourites and not at all erroneous – from quite possibly my favourite album of hers, The Globe Sessions – and Soak Up The Sun from C’mon, C’mon.

If the whole thing had gone on until the sun came up over Santa Monica Boulevard, I’d have been over the moon. Actually, what with the time zones, for all I knew it had. But anyway for two hours, between 9pm and 11pm I was a very happy bunny. And several days later, I still am.

Next up in the dream concert series, Shakira in December. I anticipate more belly dancing. But for the time being, I have to concur with Sheryl. Good is good, bad is bad – but I know full well which one I had.

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